“My lord! My lord! The Romans are coming!” Zeno’s excitement startled the old, withered figure siting in the corner next to the window, contemplating his thoughts. “Did you not hear me, my lord? The Romans are coming and this time they intend to have your head!”
“I heard you, you clucking old hen,” Hannibal said as he rose to his feet. Within those few quick seconds, the image of the old man fell away and was replaced with Hannibal the Conqueror, the man who brought nations to their knees. Zeno couldn’t help but be awestruck.
“Well, we must hurry and leave this place before they get here!”
“No, Zeno. No more running.” The words hit the lowly Greek slave hard, like a sword being driven through his stomach. “Then you intend to fight?”
“No. No more fighting. No more running. This ends here.” With that mournful proclamation Hannibal produced a small ring from around his neck.
“No, Master! Anything but that!” Zeno knew that the ring meant that his master had finally given up.
“I am old, Zeno, and I’m tired of running. I would’ve been content with living out my days here in peace, but Rome has other plans for me.” Hearing the defeat in his masters voice, Zeno couldn’t help but burst into tears. Why could those vile Romans not leave his master alone? He had lived here in peace all these years, why could that not continue?
“Come now, quit your blubbering. Soon you shall be free to live your life as you see fit.” After looking around for a bit, the once great general gathered up a quill and a piece of parchment and jotted down a short note. “Be sure to leave this with my body, and make sure you are gone when the Romans arrive. Here, take this.” With scarred and calloused hands, Hannibal snatched a coin purse from off of a nearby table and tossed it to distraught slave. Zeno could feel the weight of the coins and could tell it was no small amount. Then, with slow, precise movements, Hannibal removed a small stopper from the top of the ring and drank the liquid hidden inside. Hannibal then sat down in the chair which Zeno found him in and began to relax.
“My time has come and gone, my old friend, and now I begin my final journey. I go to feast with Baal and drink with Alexander. Tales of my battles shall be sung until the gods raze this world to ground. How many men can make such a boast?” Then, with a smile and a long deep sigh, Hannibal’s breath slowed to a stop.
“None, my lord.” Zeno stood there in silence, and with one final forlorn glance at the titan before him, he turned and left.
When the Romans arrived, they tore apart the small house looking for the general that had almost brought them to their knees, eventually finding him sitting in the chair by the window with a note next to him that read, “Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experience, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man’s death”.